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The goal of RUN:
Closed nutrient circulation

By closing regional nutrient and resource cycles, RUN contributes to the sustainability and resilience of agricultural systems in the bachdrop of urban structures. An essential element of the project is the estabishment of regional nutrient partnerships between urban residents and farmers to support the long-term recycling of nutrients in society.


The structure of the project is similar to a real laboratory: In the city of Heidelberg, a pilot plant alongside an information and experience space are planned to be installed in order to demonstrate the undertaking. In this way, new technologies can be tested directly under real-time conditions, involving key stakeholders. RUN combines the research of innovative technologies, the analysis of material flow models, systemic scenario analysis, and socio-scientific participatory methods to develop sustainable solutions.


The Institute for Sanitary Engineering, Water Quality and Waste Management at the University of Stuttgart (ISWA) coordinates the research project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The first phase runs over three years, an extension is planned. RUN is one of eight projects in the research project "Agricultural Systems of the Future" as part of the "National Research Strategy Bioeconomy 2030" .

Recycling nutrients
and resources

The main goal of RUN is to develop practically viable technologies that have been tested for ecological, economic and social sustainability in order to close nutrient cycles between urban and rural regions.


Biowaste and parts of wastewater from urban settlements are to be processed and converted into safe design fertilizers, recycled plastic films, or biochar for agriculture. For this, technical urban planning and logistical structures will be developed, wherein the separation, processing, conversion and recycling of nutrients and their ongoing circulation will be seamlessly coordinated across various levels.

Establishing partnerships between urban and rural areas

Our aim is to establish so-called "nutrient partnerships" between urban residents and agricultural producers, thereby forming the social foundation for a sustainable closed-loop nutrient cycle within society. 

To achieve this, the interaction of sustainable agricultural production with future-oriented consumption behavior of urban residents will be explored. Through this exploration, role models between (rural) producers and (urban) consumers can be identified.Thus, RUN presents innovative approaches to fostering sustainable rural-urban partnerships within a circular economy framework.

Promoting exchange 
between stakeholders

New technical systems cannot function without the respective users. In the RUN project, user perspectives are examined by social scientists. Critical positions, historical, cultural obstacles, and different requests of stakeholders are identified at an early stage of the project and taken into account during the concept development phase.

The social scientists specifically promote communication between relevant actors who play an important role in regional nutrient circulation systems. In addition, the active exchange of different perspectives among actors is promoted. RUN is targeted on sustainable solutions that are accepted by society and supported in the long term.

Case study Heidelberg

The project is slated to run for an initial period of three years. Following this timeframe, there are plans to construct a pilot plant designed to accommodate approximately 100 to 200 residents, serving as a demonstration model for an urban sub-district in Heidelberg.

Heidelberg's geographical location in the Rhine-Neckar triangle is highly relevant since diverse landscape structural conditions come together when developing regional circular solutions. These are already factored into the concept development, ensuring that the developed solutions have a broad transfer possibility to various other regions with the most varied regional structures. RUN can thus become a flagship project.

Living research

An information and experience space is also planned in Heidelberg. It will provide a real life illustration and information platform about the different elements of the nutrient partnership and nutrient recycling concept in order to encourage exchange between citizens and other stakeholders involved  in the project.

This space will provide interested individuals with the opportunity to learn about and share their perspectives on matters ranging from the generation of nutrients within households in the form of organic waste and domestic wastewater, to the processes of separation, processing, and eventual return of agricultural products, such as those available at farmer's markets.

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